During the PC Gaming Conference at E3 2017, developer Klei Interactive announced Griftlands, an RPG with a huge emphasis on player freedom. As the Steam page states “everything is negotiable: money, loyalty—even morality.” Not much was shown of the game, but the short minute long trailer gives you a taste of what to expect.
As great as the game is looking so far, one thing stands out above all else. It’s not the fact that you play a scoundrel, or the negotiation. Well, those elements do stand-out, but what bursts out of your monitor, TV screen, or phone is the art style.
Griftlands lacks one thing many 2D RPG’s, indeed many indie games, feature prominently these days – pixel art graphics. Instead, Klei Entertainment goes for a bold art style bursting with colors, wonderfully detailed characters, and intriguing environments. This kind of art style lets you create such a more detailed and engrossing world. That’s something you can’t do with blocky, chunky art that’s only good for minimalist storytelling.
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if you’re familiar with Klei’s past work. Klei has consistently proven to be one of the most versatile and artistic developers in the industry today. They’ve so far done it mostly under the radar too. You may not know their name, but you probably know their games. Mark of the Ninja, Shank, and Don’t Starve represent only a handful of their now ten or so games. Each of them, as well as being fantastic games, each had a similar art style to the one in Griftlands.
Why It Matters
Pixel art can be great. As awful as the developer behind The Last Night seems, and as terrible as the concept of the game itself is, the art is gorgeous. But games like that are the exception to the pixel art rule. Most of the time, pixel art is used as a cheap substitute for hard work. Far too many potentially good games are watered down by bland, boring, uninspired pixel art monotony.
Griftlands stands out immediately thanks to its captivating art. It grabs you by the eyeballs and forces you to take a good long look at it, to marinate in its world and stay awhile. You don’t need to waste words explaining the setting or the characters because the player can instantly look at them and pick up subtle ques. Good luck doing that when the world is one shade of green, and the characters are yellow squares.
Not every game needs AAA graphics, or even graphics akin to Griftlands. But Klei once again shows the level of depth great, unique art can provide a game in a way that looks effortless.